Abstract: Using Administrative Data to Target Prevention Efforts: A Longitudinal Examination of Outcomes Post Adoption (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Using Administrative Data to Target Prevention Efforts: A Longitudinal Examination of Outcomes Post Adoption

Thursday, January 11, 2018: 3:59 PM
Marquis BR Salon 16 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kerrie Ocasio, MSW, Assistant Research Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Kevin White, PhD, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Nancy Rolock, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Background/Purpose:Between 2000 and 2013, the number of children in foster care decreased by about half (290,000 v. 159,000), while the number of children in adoptive homes nearly doubled (228,000 v. 432,000). This was largely a result of federal policies that emphasized the movement of children out of foster care and into legal permanence where it was presumed that they would live ‘happily ever after.’ Extant research suggests that a majority (85%) of families do not experience post-permanency discontinuity. However, for the 15% who do, it is often a difficult experience for the entire family. The National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC AG) is a federally funded project whose purpose is to develop evidence-based models of support and intervention that can be replicated or adapted by other child welfare systems across the country. This study presents an analysis of findings from administrative data from Illinois and New Jersey, used to select target populations for QIC AG funded prevention programs underway in both states, and the implications for intervention selection.

Methods: Using data obtained from two state-wide child welfare agencies, this study examined long-term outcomes for a population of former foster children (N=28,517 in Illinois and 13,779 in New Jersey) who exited care through adoption between 2000 and 2010. Survival analysis examined pre-permanency factors associated with post-permanency return to care up to the age of majority.

Results:Descriptive analyses showed that of children adopted from the public child welfare system in Illinois and New Jersey, 5.5% and 4.4% experienced a return to care respectively. Children who returned care in both states were, on average, 12 years old. Multivariate survival analyses indicated that, controlling for child’s race and gender, a curvilinear relationship was observed for the child’s age at the time of legal permanence. Specifically in Illinois, using the youngest children as the reference group (children whose adoption or guardianship was finalized prior to their third birthday), we found that children who finalized between the ages of 3 and 5, 6-8, and 9-11 had similar hazards (HR =1.51; 1.69; 1.56 respectively), and the hazards decreased to 0.97 for the oldest age group (i.e., youth who achieved permanence at the age of 12 or older). Hazards for discontinuity increased with each move a child had in foster care (HR=1.07), and children who spent long periods of time in foster care (three or more years) were slightly less likely (HR=0.89) to experience discontinuity. Children adopted by relatives were more likely to experience discontinuity (HR=1.20). Data were similar for New Jersey, although the risk for relative adoptions was slightly higher (HR=1.78).

Conclusions/Implications:   This study suggests that children in adoptive homes experience lower placement instability than is commonly feared by many practitioners and policy-makers. Risks do increase, however, as children move into adolescence, suggesting a risk associated with developmental tasks, and these findings were repeated in both states. Two different interventions were selected to be tested with randomly selected families with adopted adolescents, which will be discussed.